FAQs About Goldfish Disease/Health 46
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Systems, Goldfish 101: Goldfish May Be
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Easy Aquarium Fish by Neale Monks, Goldfish Disease, Goldfish, Goldfish
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Treatment System, Bloaty, Floaty Goldfish,
Disease/Emphysematosis, Pond Parasite Control
with DTHP, Hole in
the Side Disease/Furunculosis,
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Disease 39 Goldfish Disease
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FAQs on Goldfish Medicines:
Antifungals, Antibacterials, Anti-protozoals (
Copper, eSHa, Metronidazole, Formalin, Copper,
Malachite Green), Dewormers, Organophosphates, Salts, Mela- et
al. non-fixes, Misc.
Goldfish Disease by "Types",
Environmental 1, Environmental 2, Environmental 3, Environmental 4, Environmental 5, Environmental , (Absolutely
the Biggest Category)
Floaty Bloaty Goldfish
Nutritional (Second Largest)
Viral and Bacterial, Fungal
Parasitic: (Ich, Protozoans,
Flukes, Worms, Crustacean/ Anchorworms/Lernaeids, ) Fish Lice (Argulus),
Goldfish Swim Bladder
Anomalous (Misc., Injuries, etc.)
New Print and
eBook on Amazon
What it takes to keep goldfish healthy long-term
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Goldfish with white on head 4/27/2009
WWM Crew -
Thanks for the service that you offer - it is much
<Thanks for the kind words.>
Our common goldfish 'Squishy' is showing some white areas
on her head (see pics)
These white areas have been increasing over the past few days.
She is still very active and eating normally. We have never had
any problems with them (they have been in this setup for 6 months
- before that they were in our outdoor pond for 3.5 years)
<Does sometimes occur for no obviously harmful reason, but it
can (and often does) imply something is not quite right.
Essentially, mucous is to fish what itching is to humans:
it's a sign the skin is being irritated.
Sometimes that's because the water chemistry isn't right.
In the case of Goldfish, acidification is often the issue,
because Goldfish like their water hard and basic. Other times
it's to do with water quality, especially ammonia and
nitrite, both of which "burn" the skin, resulting in
the mucous as a first line of defence. Overdosing with medication
can also cause this symptom.>
Here is the information on our setup:
7 goldfish (2 comets, 5 common goldfish) in a 120 gal (US) system
made up of a 75 gal display tank; 35 gal sump, and 10 gal water
<Would change much more water than this; 25% per week is
recommended, and so I'd double what you're doing here. In
big tanks, "no spill" water change devices like those
Python pipes can really earn their keep.>
The water change tank is drained & re-filled each day for an
approx. 55% weekly water change.
<Oh, I see. That should work quite well.>
We are running a 9 watt uv sterilizer, 25micron sock filter in
sump, and a large pond sponge filter in sump.
We use 'Wonder Shell' mineral blocks for trace
<No idea why you want to use these, and wouldn't be using
them in water this hard anyway. Given the hardness and carbonate
hardness, there's nothing you need to add. At best, this is a
waste of money, and at worse, it's some nebulous factor that
could have negative affects.>
Our staple food is Spirulina flakes (Aquatrol - Spirulina 20) fed
daily with occasional Sanyu Goldfish & Koi pellets, brine
shrimp, sinking algae wafers, peas, blanched lettuce and frozen
blood worms. They do fast one day a week.
Water parameters are as follows:
well water with no chlorine or Chloramine
Nitrite 0 ppm
Nitrate 7 ppm.
<All sounds very good, practically ideal in fact.>
Please let us know what you think this is.
Thanks for your time!
<The short answer is I'm not precisely sure what's the
issue here, but it's usually related to some sort of irritant
in the water. I'd get rid of those Wonder Shell things for a
start, and see if there's any chance. I'd then review
water change protocol, checking that pH changes between water
changes were minimal, and that the right amount (and type) of
conditioner was being used. For example, if you have Chloramine
in the water, some dechlorinators won't work. I'd also
consider extrinsic factors: paint fumes, bug spray, etc that
might being used in the room. Cheers, Neale.>
|Ailing Oranda - have diligently searched
your site 4/27/2009
Although I have spent a few hours trolling through your archives
I'm afraid I am still at a loss as to what I should do for my
ailing Oranda. I am very much a novice, but it has been an
extremely educational few hours of reading! My set up is a 36
gallon tank with two Oranda Goldfish.
<A good size tank.>
I do a 30% to 50% water change with gravel vacuum every week
(sometimes every two weeks when life is crazy).
<Should be fine. The advantage of a bigger tank than a 10 or 20
gallon system is you're not balanced on a cliff edge; skip a
week because you've got stuff to do, and it's no big
I only have Quick Dip strips to test the water, but the levels are:
Nitrate - 0 Nitrite - 0 Total Hardness - 75 Chlorine - 0 Alkalinity
- 80 pH -7.2 and Ammonia -- 0.
<Basically okay, but a little on the soft side for Goldfish. Do
Review the section on making water harder, and consider using the
Cichlid Salt mix recipe mentioned; add the mix to each new bucket
of water you add, and you'll gently raise the hardness and pH
to where they should be. It is entirely possible that the reason
your fish has a weakened immune system is improper water
The history: The Oranda in question (Clover) is our first fish and
was acquired about nine months ago, along with another Oranda
(Lucky). Two months ago Lucky died. From what I could tell from a
crude necropsy the cause appeared to be an abscess. (I am a
veterinary technician but I have no 'fish knowledge'. He
had a sizable swelling on his side just behind the gills which
contained a large amount of what seemed to be puss.)
<Likely a secondary infection. Because fish swim about in a warm
bacteria soup, injuries or parasite wounds can quickly become
infected. In good conditions, their immune system fights off the
Aeromonas and other responsible bacteria without any trouble, but
if a fish is somehow stressed, e.g., because the water quality is
low or has the wrong chemistry, then the immune system can't
work properly. Hence, bacterial infections seen in (pet) fish are
very commonly secondary bacterial infections.>
We waited a few months before getting another fish to make sure
there had not been some contagious problem. About a week ago we got
another Oranda. The new one has remained unaffected throughout our
current troubles. There has been no sign of bullying or fighting
between the two.
'Clover' has always had a history of swim bladder
<Par for the course, unfortunately, with Fancy Goldfish. The
features some breeders think are "pretty" do not
necessarily go along with a fish being healthy or mobile.>
In fact she has had the problem from when we first got her. I just
did not know her swim pattern was unusual until I came across
several articles while I was researching the swelling on
Lucky's side. The same Internet search revealed the pea
treatment, to which she has always responded very well.
<It's not so much a treatment as good diet: Goldfish should
be getting green foods all the time!>
We also discovered that we were feeding a woefully inadequate diet
of sinking Goldfish pellets. So for the past few months we have
been feeding romaine lettuce, peas, and oranges in addition to some
She did not like the freeze dried bloodworms I tried to give
<Yet to meet a fish that likes freeze-dried anything. For what
it's worth freeze-dried foods are wildly overpriced, and wet
frozen foods both cheaper and healthier.>
(I have no idea how to tell a male from a female, we just call one
a 'him' and the other a 'her') She recently started
floating upside down occasionally and under questioning, my 8 year
old daughter admitted to being heavy handed with the pellets.
However this time the peas did not seem to do the trick. In the
past when she has had a flare-up of the swim bladder problem, she
will float at the top of the tank either right-side up or upside
down but never seems particularly bothered by the condition. She
has always maintained her appetite. This time, after hanging out at
the top of the tank for a day or two, I was very alarmed to find
her resting on the bottom of the tank. She would swim around in a
normal fashion if I startled her (By yelling 'Oh no! and
rushing to the tank.) but would soon settle back down to the
bottom. She was still eating though. By nightfall that day she was
staying exclusively on the bottom by wedging her head under the
overhang of the decorative cave in her tank. I really thought she
would not be with us in the morning. The next day (yesterday) she
was still hanging in there although now there seemed to be a raw,
perhaps bruised area on the side of her Wen.
<Again, likely a secondary infection. The redness is where small
blood vessels become congested thanks to the burgeoning bacteria
population. Eventually the blood vessels become completely clogged,
blood flow stops, and that patch of tissue dies.>
It is the exact spot that she had wedged under the cave, so I have
assumed it was caused by the Wen scraping the side of the cave as
she drifted or as she swam forward to stay wedged there.
She seemed slightly improved in that she would swim around more and
hang out at the top of the tank instead of staying on the bottom. I
got her to eat a few more peas.
Now this morning the damaged area looks infected with white
material protruding. (See attached picture)
<Mucous and dead tissue. Classic secondary infection
She hangs listlessly at the top of the tank and will not eat at
all. I am not sure if the area on her head is what I assumed, or if
it is in fact some infection or fungus and is really the cause of
all the problems but was just not visible in its early stages.
<It's bacterial, and needs to be treated using Finrot
medication, such as Maracyn.>
From my Internet searches it looks like I can try to swab the Wen
with hydrogen peroxide once and feed a medicated food, but I have
NO idea which one is appropriate.
<No, don't do this.>
I don't know if there is time to order something. I can look
for a 'fish store' in my area, but for now I just have the
local PetSmart from which to buy a possible remedy.
<They should have Maracyn. Don't waste your time with H202,
salt, tea-tree oil or anything else like that. Since you work in
this field, you should be perfectly aware of the difference between
medications that have been tested, and vague, homeopathic things
with little to no usefulness.>
I don't want to make matters worse but I also don't want to
do nothing and find her dead in the tank.
Can any of you tell what might be going on from the attached photo?
Any advice on possible treatment strategy would be greatly
appreciated. I'm quite attached to this fish!
<Good luck, Neale.>
(I'm afraid I don't even know how to check to see if you
have been able to answer my question. Are responses found in the
"Daily FAQ section?)
<Yes, will be posted in the Daily FAQ, and we send an e-mail to
you, too. Please, also note we ask for images to be resized down to
no more than 500 KB or so; we have a 10 MB e-mail limit here, and
if we get too many messages with 3.5 MB photos attached, the
mailbox fills up, and messages get bounced back to the original
sender. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ailing Oranda - have diligently
searched your site 4/27/09
Many thanks for your great response! The Wet Web Media site is
such a fantastic resource to have available.
<You are most welcome.>
I will go get some Maracyn tonight as well as attending to the
water chemistry. I had seen some references in the past to the
levels of pH that goldfish prefer and realized ours was not
optimal, but I had been told that goldfish are extremely hardy
but they don't like change.
<Ah, there are two concepts in this sentence, both of them
correct. But as you know from your background in animal
healthcare, things are often more complicated than simple
sentences might suggest. Yes, Goldfish can be very hardy, but
that does depend on the variety and also the conditions they are
being kept in. Standard Goldfish (things like Comets, Standards
and Shubunkins) are very robust animals that do well outdoors,
and here in England at least, can overwinter underneath ice
without coming to harm. But Fancy Goldfish are not hardy, and the
more "deformed" (for want of a better term) they are,
the more delicate they become. You'll have seen this with
animals like cats and dogs, where the very extreme varieties
Siamese cats) are clearly less robust, and often shorter-lived,
than standard "moggy" type house cats. Environment
plays a role too; in a spacious aquarium or pond where water
chemistry is stable and conditions basically sound, Goldfish will
put up with occasional problems quite easily. But if the
environment is marginal at best, and the Goldfish is exposed to
constantly low levels of oxygen, the wrong water chemistry, or
consistently poor water quality, then eventually they do succumb.
Goldfish kept in bowls for example rarely last for more than a
few months, while Goldfish in ponds can live for over 30 years.
That just about says it all!>
The advice I received at that time was to not mess with it as the
change would likely be more of a problem than the pH itself.
<Causing rapid changes in pH or hardness will stress any fish.
But doing weekly water changes, wherein you add the
"proper" water chemistry in each new bucket of water,
should gently nudge conditions to where they should be. For
example, if the pH is 6.0 now, and you added 20% pH 7.5 water
this weekend, the pH would only rise a little, maybe to 6.4. Next
week to 6.7, the week after to 7.0, and so on. This would be well
within what your Goldfish can tolerate. The "cichlid salt
mix" mentioned in that article on water chemistry is cheap
and easy to use, so just mix some up, add to each bucket of
water, and off you go. Compared to the cost of medications,
spending the pennies per month on this sort of preventative
healthcare is very sensible.>
However, you make perfect sense with your reference to a low
immune system being connected with a less than ideal environment.
This is such a basic commonality among all things that breathe
that I'm having quite a "duh" moment.
In the meantime, I had gone to a fish store yesterday to see if
anyone could point me towards an appropriate medicated food. The
guy I spoke with recommended treating the water instead and I am
currently adding Melafix to the tank.
<Ah, that's a brand of the tea-tree oil "potion"
I mentioned in my last e-mail. It's widely sold, but
hasn't been tested by vets, and from the reports we get here,
doesn't work consistently. It's a herbal thing that
apparently kills some bacteria and fungi, and while it may work
reasonably well as a preventative anti-microbial, there's no
reason at all to expect it to work on systemic infections or
established external infections.
Maracyn is a proper antibiotic that gets into the fish and works
through all its tissues. So we're talking about the
difference between a topical ointment you'd use to clean up a
wound, compared to an antibiotic you'd use to treat an
Today is the second of a seven day regimen. Would you recommend
continuing this along with the Maracyn or stopping?
<I'm neutral on this. I don't imagine Melafix will
have much impact either way, but shouldn't interfere with
Maracyn since the two work in completely different ways.>
She is actually improving and while not exactly active, she is no
longer listless. As to appetite, she seemed interested but unable
to be quick enough to grab a falling pea. I was successful in
getting her to take
several peas off the end of a blunt skewer. (Now that I know
she'll take food like that, I'm looking forward to
training her when she feels better.
I hear they make little agility courses for fish - sounds like a
great environmental enrichment!)
<Toys are all very well for Goldfish, but what they actually
want is companionship. Yes, Goldfish do form bonds with their
keepers, which is one reason they make great pets, but they are
schooling fish and work best in groups of three or more
specimens. With Fancy Goldfish, it's wise to choose specimens
of the same basic type though. Standard Goldfish tend to hog the
food and may even become bullies, and even Moors, which are Fancy
Goldfish, can be a bit rough on the more delicate Fancy Goldfish
I also learned that the filter that came with our "starter
tank" was not a biological filter and was not doing a very
good job as the water would get cloudy fairly quickly at times,
prompting me to do more frequent water changes. It sounds like I
may have been getting rid of a lot of "good"
bacteria in the process.
<Do read up on filtration; the "art" of fishkeeping
is keeping bacteria happy.
Do that right, and the rest is child's play.>
So I made quite an upgrade to the filter and we now have a good
current going through the tank. The water is still not crystal
clear after 24 hours - should it be?
<Depends on the situation. Silt is removed by mechanical
filtration media, typically filter wool or fine sponges, so if
your filter has little or none of these, silt may remain. Water
can also go cloudy for other reasons; if milky, that's often
a bacterial bloom (indicating poor water quality, usually); if
yellowy, that's diatoms, a type of algae, and tends to go
away by itself after a few weeks.>
Perhaps the Melafix is contributing to the slight cloudiness?
I hope we are on the road to recovery. Thanks again!!
<Good luck, Neale.>
Slime Coat, GF, env.
black moor 4/26/09
Hello, I very recently had to treat my fish for what looked like a
serious case of septicemia.
<Due to what cause/s?>
After doing some water tests I realized that the ammonia and nitrite
levels were high.
<Any appreciable amount is toxic...>
I have done many water exchanges over a few days to try and get the
levels back to zero.
<One approach... though can be self-defeating, in that such changes
very often forestall the establishment of biochemical nutrient
I am still trying to accomplish this, but right now the levels are very
low (a major improvement from what they were). All of my fish seem to
have done a good job of bouncing back from the problem except one. He
is a goldfish who has developed a thin, white film on his body over the
past 24 hours, which someone told me was a lack of slime coat.
<Mmm, actually, likely more slimy than less>
Although he has clamped fins and tends to either sit at the bottom of
the tank or head up at the top, he will perk up quickly when I come to
the tank and starts to swim around normally, digs through gravel and is
still eating well. So he hasn't become so lethargic that he has
stopped swimming or eating. I am trying to figure out how to help him
get his slime coat back.
<Better to just wait this out than "treat" with
Is there something I can do to help it along?
<Monitor water quality, perhaps apply a chemical filtrant, feed
I had salted the tank during the treatment for the septicemia, but I
have recently heard that goldfish really don't like salt in the
<Very little freshwater aquatic life does>
So I am not sure if I should try to do more water exchanges to get the
salt out. I don't want to do too many water exchanges to stress out
the fish, but I also don't want anything irritating in the water.
Any suggestions as to how to help my fish out are greatly
appreciated. Thanks Mark
<Yes... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm
the third tray down... on Nitrogenous...
Re: Slime Coat
Hello again, Thank you for your help Bob, After a little more research
and trying to figure out what is wrong with my fish, it now seems that
their symptoms match up with Costia.
<Mmm... need to at least look at microscopic samples of body
While I thought it might be septicemia because of the blood, it seems
from what I've read that with Costia, the bleeding appears under
the 'chin' area of the fish. This is exactly where it was/is in
<This symptomology could involve even non pathogenic causes>
After only a couple of days, most of the fish seemed to bounce back
very well. The blood is leaving their chins and they are active with
fins out. However, two haven't been so successful and until now, I
thought it might have been a reaction to poor water quality and lack of
I have been trying desperately to get the ammonia and nitrite down to
zero, but I think you are right and I damaged the biochemical cycle in
I have been using cycle
<... See WWM re... this Hagen product is not reliable... Seek
"One and Only" or "BioSpira" instead>
in an attempt to speed up the process. But I did think that maybe my
one fish, who has been moving between actively eating and digging
through gravel to sitting near the top gasping, was just trying to deal
with the potentially irritating water. However, as I said, all of his
symptoms seem to match up with what I've read about Costia.
<... I would NOT be treating these fishes for such...>
The red under the chin, the clamped fins, gasping at the surface and
the whitish patches. The reason why I thought it was a lack of slime
coat is because I can very clearly see individual scales and small air
bubbles stick to his skin.
<Due to "poor water quality" challenges>
While I was just going to wait this out (seeing how active he seemed
otherwise), it now seems like it might be a much more critical issue. I
have read that Costia is easily treatable with rising the temp of the
tank and doing a salt bath. However I have also read that doing both at
the same time isn't a good idea.
<Again... more likely to further damage these fishes... the
root/real problem here is environmental>
Also, I have never done a salt bath before, so if this is something you
recommend doing, I'd like to make sure I do it right. Unfortunately
I have read too many sources claiming that doing a 0.1% salt bath
isn't good for your fish and can damage them to have just gone
ahead and done it already. As I said, my affected fish still seem to be
strong and active and eating, so I don't think they are too weak to
handle a treatment. I just want to make sure I do it right. I'd
really like to save these fish. Thank you for your time Mark
<Fix the environment, fix your livestock. Understand? BobF>
Re: Slime Coat 4/26/09
Hello Bob, Thanks again for the advice. I have had these fish for many
years, so I am very attached to them, hence I panic when there seems to
be something wrong with them.
<Need to remain calm, coldly objective>
It seems I may have done a bit of damage while trying to help them.
My concern is that if the problem isn't environmental I'm not
sure how long I wait to see if it might be something more serious. This
problem started last weekend when I first noticed the blood. After
about 36 hours most of the tank seemed to recover. Now there are only
the two left who seem affected. So if it is environmental, why
wouldn't it affect all the fish in the tank?
<No... think of your "human experience"... When faced with
the same challenges, do all folks in a given sample react
As I said, the one fish is still quite active, he just spends most of
his time at the surface gulping air. But he still gets excited for food
and digs around in the gravel quite enthusiastically on occasion. To
me, this is a good sign, is it not?
He still seems to be hanging in there and has the energy to get better.
But I fear I am running out of time. So my question now is how do I
properly help this tank. There seem to still be small amounts of
ammonia and nitrite in the water.
<.... read here:
and the linked files above>
I clearly want them to be zero. The only way I know how to do this is
through water exchanges,
but then I risk further damage to the biochemical cycle ( I will go
pick up some of the cycling product you recommended today). Also, I did
a small water exchange this morning (maybe 1/5) and did a pH test on
the tap water. It looked like it was around 7.9 or 8. I rarely test my
tap water's pH before putting it in, so it's hard to know if
it's always been like that or if it used to be more around 7.
<Don't fool with this>
As a result, the pH of the tank is high as well. That seems like
something I have to fix.
However, trying to lower the pH, doing water exchanges seems difficult.
Any suggestions as to how to get the pH back down to 7?
<See WWM re... don't write... instead read:
and the linked files above>
I know inappropriate pH can also irritate fish, however, again, why
would this only affect a couple of the fish and not the others? And
lastly, how quickly should I expect to see a change if I get all the
environmental issues in order? Does a fish who is irritated by poor
water bounce back as soon as it's changed?
<Takes time... days to weeks>
How long does it take for a fish to grow back a slime coat (if
that's what he is missing)? I ask because I want to know how long I
should wait before assuming that it isn't environmental issues. As
I said, in the other fish, the blood pretty much cleared away, but two
of them still have it. I don't fully understand why this is and how
to help. Thank you again for all your help, Mark
<Keep reading. BobF>
Hi, my name is Angie and I am very concerned about my little Black Moor
<Hello Angie. Do remember there's no such thing as a
"little" Goldfish, just a baby one.
Even Tito here will get to a good 20 cm in length, and he will require
a big tank with a strong filter.>
I bought Tito and two other fancy gold fish at the same time and bought
them home to a 90 liter tank. All 3 of them were roughly the same tiny
size of 1 inch. In the past 2 months the other two gold fish have
tripled in size and become round and fat and glorious, but little Tito
has not grown.
He looks incredibly thin, and his fins are clamped to his sides.
<Could be "poor genes", parasitic infection, or simply
behaviour, i.e., he can't compete with the other fish at feeding
time. Moors are usually quite boisterous, and mix well even with
regular Goldfish. But perhaps not in every case. Does he eat properly?
As for parasites, while not common, occasionally Goldfish have things
like intestinal worms. Infected fish tend to eat a lot, but yet
don't grow, and may look skinny for their size.
Treatment with an anti-Helminth such as Praziquantel (e.g., Prazi Pro)
will help here. In some places this is available from pet shops,
otherwise from a vet. If it's bad genes, there's not much you
can do. Genetically "poor" fish may look otherwise healthy,
but often because their swim bladder is deformed, they cannot swim
properly. Called "belly sliders" by fish breeders, these are
quite common. Unlike constipated fish, which have trouble maintaining
the right buoyancy, and so roll about, "belly sliders"
can't even get off the ground.>
He lays on the bottom of the tank on his belly, or hangs around at the
very top while the other two swim happily around. He has no white spots
of any skin discoloration. His fins look intact despite being quite
close to his body all the time. Tito was happy until about 3 weeks
after I bought him, when he had an issue with his swim bladder. It took
me two weeks of feeding him peas and keeping him in a shallow tank to
get him buoyant again but since then he hasn't been thriving like
the others. I have become incredibly attached to this little guy and
I'd love any advice you may have to help me to help him.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
hi, I typed in to Google about my problem and something exactly
the same came up with your link, but when I looked on your site I
couldn't find it?!
I have a tank that is APROX (I'm not certain) 47 litres- iv
recently found out its way too small for the fish I have- I'm
in the process of getting a bigger one by the weekend.
<Very good; the bigger the tank, the easier it is to keep
fish. For beginners, a tank around 110 litres is a great size for
Goldfish, enabling you to keep more than one specimen, and also
to ensure pretty good water
in it I have 2 fantails (one my partner has had for a year and
the other we have had for aprox 3/4 months) as well as a loach
that we got with the 2nd fantail.
2 weeks ago I got 2 black moors and 2 Shubunkins (thinking that
there was loads of room in the tank - stupid me )
<Yes, you are rather overstocked! For six Goldfish and one (I
presume) Weather Loach, I'd be looking at a tank around 180
litres. Always remember Goldfish get to about 20 cm in length, in
some case rather more, but rarely any less. The body of a Fancy
Goldfish like a Moor is about the size of a man's hand.
That's a big fish! Have your partner put his hand against the
glass front of any aquarium you plan to buy, and think about
whether that tank gives enough space for six fish that size to
swim about! Shubunkins are a super-active breed that really like
strong water currents and plenty of swimming space, so do be
careful with those. Do see here for more:
since getting these other fish, my partner noticed that there was
as white lump on one of the black moors. I treated the tank for
white spot after being wrongly advised by a friend, and the
treatment of 6 days ended yesterday.
<Whitespot isn't actually a lump, but more like salt
grains all over the fish. White lumps tend to be the first signs
of Finrot or Fungus or (the misnamed bacterial infection) Mouth
Fungus. These are very different things, and need to be treated
with a different class of medication. In the UK, I'd
recommend eSHa 2000 for treating them. Elsewhere, look for
medications that treat Finrot and Fungus together, if you're
in doubt, though Fungus can usually be distinguished because it
looks like cotton wool, whereas Mouth Fungus and Finrot (both
bacterial infections) are more like sores, lumps or wounds. Do
I've been keeping an eye on the fish and noticed that the
white had gone, but now all is left is a fleshy looking
I went to the pet shop today and the guy did a water test, he
said there were traces of nitrate and ammonia and that my filter
was 'starting to work' (I don't understand why he
<It takes 4-8 weeks for a filter to go from new to working
properly. In that period, you get first ammonia and then nitrite
building up and then dropping to zero. This is a danger stage for
any fish in the tank, and what you're reporting is a very
common repercussion. Also, if the tank is too small, and the
filter too pokey, your filter won't remove the ammonia the
fish make fast enough, and you'll always have some ammonia in
This stresses and eventually kills any and all fish. Goldfish
need a filter rated at around 6 times the volume of the tank in
turnover per hour; i.e., an aquarium 125 litres in size would
need a filter rated at 750 litres per hour.>
and that all I needed to do was do a weekly change tomorrow- the
day it would of been anyways.
<You likely need to be doing 25% water changes daily (or at
least every other day) until the ammonia drops to zero.>
but I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help the
wound get better quicker?
he also told me to put salt in ,but I forgot to ask how much and
is it just normal house hold salt?
<Use aquarium salt, about 3-4 grammes per litre.>
he said the fish could of knocked itself and a callous(?) may of
formed over the wound and then fallen off? is this possible to be
so I need to quarantine this fish from the others? I'm not
really good at the wait and see method?
<No; treat the tank, and move the fish to the bigger aquarium
ASAP. Once the fish are move to the bigger tank, start treating
again, from Day 0 if the medication requires several doses (most
do). I cannot stress this too strongly: Finrot eventually becomes
Septicaemia, and that kills fish.>
one more thing is , my other black moor has one side of his
fantail bent inwards, as far as I know it doesn't affect his
swimming, but he very rarely swims to the top, he seems to get
just close to it , then floats back down, do I need to reduce the
depth of the water?
many thanks for your time and help!
<Natalie, please thank us next time by using capital letters.
We normally bounce back messages that aren't written properly
because they're no real use to our web site. I've had my
first cup of coffee and it's a bright
sunny day, so I felt generous. Next time though...! Cheers,
Re: Goldfish problems 4/22/09
THANK YOU FOR YOUR REPLY EMAIL!
its was very helpful and I will go out and get the medication
today. Is Finrot contagious?
<Not directly; but because it's the environment that
usually causes it, if one fish gets sick, there's a good
chance others may get sick too. Hence, you treat them all
together, just to be on the safe side.>
after sending the email last night I noticed my other black moor
sucking' on the wound of the other and I separated the
<Does sometimes happen, and can be a sign of aggression, but
since Goldfish lack teeth, they don't usually damage one
today when I looked at the fish, it again has a white covering
over where the wound is. is this still fin rot?
<The white stuff could be dead tissue or merely excess mucous;
difficult to say.>
and do I need to keep it separate from the other fish whilst
treating both tanks?
<No; treat them all together.>
Re: Goldfish problems 5/1/09
Hi! I have attached two pictures of my black moor, unfortunately
they aren't very clear.
<No, they're not, are they...>
The wound seems to have a white line going around it, you can
still see some flesh. Is this the fish healing and is it just
dead that is white?
<The white is certainly dead tissue.>
or is it a fungus?
<Doesn't appear to be; just to be clear, fungus is very
clearly patches of white threads, like cotton wool. Anything else
is bacterial, and thus treated with antibiotics, e.g., Maracyn.
In this case, because the wound is so large, I'd treat
urgently. Follow the instructions, e.g., removing carbon from the
filter, if used.>
the area doesn't seem to be getting any bigger, though I will
keep checking daily to make sure it is not spreading!
I have put the moor on it's own to ensure that the other fish
don't bother it as the other moor was sucking on the wound
last time I mailed you.<Ah, yes, that can make things
I apologise for any spelling mistakes, but I do not have a spell
checker on my computer so I am doing the best I can as my emails
are rushed before work and I sometimes do not notice grammatical
<You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>
HELP!... no reading...
Hi guys. I think one of my little orange goldfish is really sick.
<Usually a water quality thing. Read here:
Make sure you have enough space, proper filtration, and good water
It's pretty bloated from when I got him, the majority of it's
scales look like they're flaking off it's body, like you could
pull them off, and it's tail is kind of chewed up. The top part of
its tail looks normal, but the bottom part is kind of ragged and
it's turned a whitish color.
<Finrot... dying... treat with something relevant such as Maracyn
(not salt or Melafix) and make sure to improve environmental
It can swim around just fine, and it ate when I had it in the tank. I
have a big 20 gallon tank,
<Contradiction in terms... one Goldfish will need 30 gallons when
mature, and even a 20 gallon is barely adequate for a
with 9 fish in it, before I quarantined the sick one.
<Nine Goldfish in 20 gallons...? No wonder these fish are
When I quarantined it, it wouldn't eat it's dinner. I'm
really not sure what to do, and I don't want to lose one, because
one already died before I changed tanks. What can I do to save my
little buddy? (And I highly doubt my mom will buy me fishy
Thanks so much-Kaily
<Read, act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Goldfish-Resistant Fin Rot?
Hi Crew, It has been a long time since I asked a question (see thread
below), but I wanted to update you on my goldfish's progress and
ask a new question about the environment, which is somehow still
Since August of 2008, I've stopped all attempts at medication and
treating the symptom's of my fish's Finrot and focused on
performing weekly 20% water changes. I've made several changes
based on suggestions you offered.
First, I added an in-tank filter + UV sterilizer as additional
<Sounds good; but do bear in mind UV only reduces the odds of
re-infection by killing waterborne pathogens, they will not cure
infections that already exist, or have much impact on things like
heterotrophic bacteria that normally (must!) live in the aquarium as
part of the nitrogen cycle.>
Second, I slowly transitioned to tap water as my water source. I have a
"spare" cycled tank in the closet that I fill up and use for
The constant feeding of Chloramine-filled tap water keeps the cycle
going in this spare tank and this set-up allows the water to come to
the correct temp and pH before using. Ammonia, nitrites are ALWAYS zero
in this "spare" tank and in both my fish tanks. (In addition
to my 27gal tank, I have a 10gal tank with a single 2-inch goldfish in
it). Nitrates are 7ppm because this is the base level in my tap water,
but they never go higher than 20ppm, usually less.
The most important thing I've done is offer a stable environment.
These changes I referred to were done a long while back and have been
consistent ever since. Unfortunately, I'm still experiencing the
same exact problem.
Although my Shubunkin stopped bleeding and showed some fin re-growth
for a short time, now both goldfish have been having sudden large
splits/tears in their tail and pelvic fins. It's happening to both
fish (in separate tanks), so my only conclusion is it must be the
<Possibly; but what?>
But after filtration, the water is clear, doesn't smell, is
colorless, and always has zero ammonia/nitrites and is pH and temp
matched. I always check to make sure. (I should note, my tap water has
discoloration and smells before being filtered in my spare tank. We
don't drink it, but it is Tampa, FL city tap water, not well water.
It's supposed to be drinking-water quality and all the LFS use it,
so they say.)
<Usually tap water is fine; Goldfish obviously thrive outdoors in
ponds, and yet no-one would consider ponds potable!>
Now, one new environmental change to both tanks is that I've been
turning the overhead light on each day, which I haven't done in
about a year.
(However, the fin splits started happening BEFORE I started turning the
lights on.) The reason is that I want the tanks to start growing
That's another thing that concerns me is that neither tank grows
algae, which in moderation is a sign of a healthy tank.
<Even "not in moderation" algae in itself isn't a
cause of disease; certain types of algae prosper in conditions that
also favour disease, specifically blue-green algae. These thrive in the
slow-moving, low-oxygen, nitrate and phosphate-rich water that also
favours opportunistic bacterial infections.
But that's because both issues are about bacterial populations
favoured by the same set of conditions, rather than the blue-green
algae causing bacterial infections.>
Before I moved to this house a year ago, my tank always had a healthy
amount of algae and my fish never got sick ever. I also bought some
goldfish-friendly aquatic plants, but I haven't introduced them.
QT for a few weeks.
The splits are definitely getting worse. I'm very alarmed because
now I see a new one every 24 hours or so. It's awful and the worse
part is I think it might be the water.
<Almost all "splitting fins" are signs of bacterial
infection, and almost all bacterial infections are, ultimately, a sign
the normal immune system has failed under stress, usually caused by
environmental, physical damage,
and/or dietary issues. Now, some bacterial infections are essentially
incurable; Mycobacteria infections for example (what hobbyists --
inaccurately -- refer to as Fish TB) rarely gets fixed by any of the
available over the counter. On the other hand, standard Finrot can be
caused by a variety of different bacteria, some Gram-negative and some
Gram-positive. Since Maracyn for example targets Gram-positive
bacteria, if it fails to fix the problem, switching to Maracyn 2, which
targets Gram-negative bacteria, can solve the problem.>
(Is there some chemical toxin I'm not aware of??)
<Possibly. Fish are sensitive to a variety of things that can get
dissolved in the water: paint fumes, bug spray, household cleaning
agents. Do also check for copper; while most dechlorinators will remove
this from tap
water, unusually high levels might cause problems. Your local fish shop
should be able to do a copper test for you, especially if they deal
with marine fish, where copper is especially dangerous. All this said,
are infamously tolerant, to the degree we have much abused them over
the years. So while this issues are possibilities, they're not
Also, the 10 gal tank has a powdery white substance (looks like fungus)
growing all in the filter. I cleaned it out, but it keeps coming back
every 2 weeks. The big tank doesn't have this and I can't see
any signs of
fungus. Can fungus cause such rapid splitting of fins or if not, what
<All aquaria contain fungi, and generally these are harmless.
However, fungal spores won't distinguish between fish faeces (which
we *want* them to break down) and dead skin tissue (where we *don't
want* them). So while fungi doesn't specifically "jump"
from the filter onto your fish, if your fish is somehow
"immuno-compromised" then fungal spores can, will latch onto
wounds and sores. As the fungi develop, they make things worse. All
this said, the "good" fungi should be invisible, and if
you're honestly seeing a lot of hyphae (the grey-white threads)
then that implies there is A LOT of organic matter in the tank and
filter. Put another way, stuff such as uneaten food or decaying plant
matter is providing good "compost" for a rich mould to
It seems different than rot because it's sudden and not frayed at
all, just a clean tear that heals after a few weeks (but then new
<Does sound odd, and I do think likely bacterial. Now, Finrot is
usually preceded by grey dead tissue, then red sores, and then erosion
of the fin membrane, the "skeleton" being left behind for a
while, resulting in a
cobweb-like arrangement. If the fins are simply splitting themselves
without any obvious sign of dead tissue or blood, then other things may
be relevant. The most obvious is aggression or some other source of
I'm sorry for the long question, but I really need help. I love
keeping goldfish, and I thought being a biologist/chemist would help,
but I'm just not experienced enough I guess. Thank you for your
time, and I look forward to hearing from you. I'm really panicking,
but I've held off on taking any action so I don't do the wrong
<A photo would be useful. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Goldfish-Resistant Fin Rot? (It's been a long time since I
wrote to you...) 4/19/09
Thank you, Neale.
<Most welcome, Jennifer.>
You mentioned stress (from diet, environment) can cause fish to have
lowered immune systems. I wanted to follow-up and make sure you
don't think me turning the overhead tank light on is causing undue
stress, possibly leading to the fin splits.
<Unlikely; whilst virtually all fish prefer things on the shady
side, only the most photophobic species (such as catfish) will be
stressed by being exposed to bright light. Assuming the lights are on
for only the normal
10-12 hours, it shouldn't be an issue.>
The fish aren't used to the light, but it seems like a stretch to
think that could be the problem. After all, the room is well-lit during
Also, I mainly just feed Spirulina-enhanced flakes (80% of the time),
freeze-dried shrimp (15% of time), and Spirulina wafers (5% of time). I
also throw in the occasional pea and tangerine piece, but I haven't
added these two treats in a couple of months.
<All sounds good.>
Finally, I wanted to ask about water change frequency, a big factor in
the fish environment. My father (who has a big beautiful goldfish
pond), is trying to convince me keeping plants in the aquarium will
reduce the need for water changes.
<Yes and no. If you have fast-growing plants, then yes, they absorb
nitrate and to some degree that makes the water change issue a bit less
urgent. But that does assume the plants are fast growing; just sitting
there isn't enough! Floating plants are the classic examples,
because they grow so fast you're cropping them back weekly. If you
think about what you're doing, the protein in those plants was
nitrate in the water, hence the overall boon to water quality. On the
other hand, plants don't do anything much about background
acidification, and if they aren't growing rapidly, or worse, are
essentially dying slowly, then all they're doing is making things
in aquarium less good than otherwise. So rather than using fast-growing
plants to reduce water changes, I'd say what plants do is provide
even better water quality in between water changes, without the need to
worry about troublesome denitrification.>
He said he hasn't done a pond water change in 2 years and his fish
are breeding and very healthy.
<Ponds are different to fish tanks, and while he isn't doing
water changes, every time it rains and water seeps out of the pond,
that's a water change right there. You also have a more complete
nitrogen cycle thanks to anaerobic bacteria in the mud. It is actually
quite easy to create excellent water conditions in a pond, even without
filters and skimmers.>
He said the key is to create a little ecosystem that takes care of
itself like in the wild (with some help from natural and mechanical
filtration, of course).
<Pretty much, yes. The problem is that you can't (outside of the
lab, at least) create a complete freshwater ecosystem. If you were to
add fish and plants to the sorts of levels in a pond, you'd be
adding one fish per
50-100 gallons, and you'd have incredibly powerful lights (i.e.,
something like the Sun) producing massive plant growth. You'd also
have a deep, anaerobic mud bed to the aquarium that allowed
denitrification. This can be done in aquaria, yes, but it is really
more a science project (see for example the book "Dynamic
Aquaria") rather than something viable in the home.>
He always points out that nobody is going a performing 20% water
changes in natural lakes every week.
<No, but there is rainfall, and water leaking into the water table
or out into rivers, and anaerobic mud, and fast-growing plants, and
above all an extremely small ratio of animals (the mess makers)
compared to plants and bacteria (the mess cleaner-uppers).>
He strongly believes that changing the water (20-30% every 5 or 6 days)
so much is not good for the fish or necessary.
<With respect, he's wrong. This is what was believed prior to
Put simply, people believed that "old" water was somehow
better for the fish, and what you wanted to do was minimise water
changes, such that 20-25% water changes *per month* were recommended.
Within the context of the hobby between 1900 and 1980, that argument
may well have had some merit. Without test kits, no-one really new what
their water chemistry was, and because of the "old" water,
tanks tended to be very acidic. So doing small changes perhaps helped
because any pH changes were small. Or perhaps poor quality
dechlorinators and the lack of copper removers meant that new water was
potentially toxic. Whatever the reasons, this was how people did
things. But the downside was that the selection of fish people kept was
limited to hardy species. Anything intolerant of old water, in other
words chemicals such as nitrate, just died. We now keep ten, twenty
times the number of species kept in 1970, primarily because *we can*.
Motorized filters, test kits, a general appreciate of water chemistry
and quality, etc., all mean that we can keep species of fish that in
1970s weren't seen outside public aquaria. Now, no-one is saying
you should do random water changes, but provided the water going into
the tank has roughly the same pH, hardness and temperature of the water
taken out, the *bigger the water change, the better*. It turns out
there's nothing special about "old" water, and that the
newer the water, the better. Provided, of course, you aren't
exposing your fish to massive changes. Small changes don't do any
harm, and in fact many fish rather like water changes where the new
water is a couple degrees colder; it mimics rain, and gets them frisky.
That's how you convince many fish, such as Corydoras, to
However, it's hard to argue with the evidence. The longest stretch
I've gone recently without seeing a fin split is 44 days and I kept
up the water change just described consistently the entire time. When I
tried to back off to 20% every 2 weeks recently, I had the problems
described here, which you believe is probably bacterial. I agree. So,
how can I create a stable environment, but not see a bacterial
<I'm actually at a bit of a loss here. Firstly, water chemistry.
How hard is your water? What's the pH? Is the pH stable? Raising
the carbonate hardness can work wonders with Goldfish. Do see here:
In particular, the Malawi salt recipe could be a cheap fix. Your
ammonia and nitrite levels are zero, as I recall, which is good. Is
your filter up to the job though? While you might detect zero amounts
of these chemicals as/when you test the water, there may be
intermittent spikes in between times, e.g., after feeding. For
Goldfish, I usually recommend filters rated at 6 times the volume of
the tank in turnover per hour. In other words, a 55 gallon tank would
need a filter rated at 330 gallons per hour. Do also check the filter
is "optimised" for Goldfish; carbon and Zeolite are largely
redundant, but mechanical filter media and biological filter media are
essential, I'd say at a ratio of one part mechanical to two parts
biological. Next up, I'd check temperature. Fancy Goldfish are
notorious for getting split fins when they're cold. Anything about
18 C should be fine. Finally, I'd review the potential for physical
damage, e.g., sharp rocks like geodes or corals. Some folks put 'em
Goldfish aquaria, so I thought I'd mention them. If these fish are
being kept with anything else, consider whether aggression or nipping
might be a factor.>
Thank you so much...I really respect the advice offered on your web
There are a lot of books, website, etc. that offer blatantly incorrect
information, that it is very refreshing to have a reliable source to go
to for help.
<We do our best! Thanks for these kind words.>
Re: Goldfish-Resistant Fin Rot? (It's been a long time since I
wrote to you...) 4/19/09
Thank you, again, Neale. To answer your questions, my pH in the tank is
8.0-8.2 (it does fluctuate between these two numbers over the course of
a week or two, but never outside this range). I use API test drops. The
pH of my tap (right out of the tap) is about 7.8, but I let it
circulate in the spare holding tank for at least 2 days and the pH is
always 8.0 when I do a water change.
<All sounds fine.>
The carbonate hardness is 210-220 mg/L straight out of the tap and
drops to 180 mg/L in the spare holding tank before I use it for water
changes. The tanks are always at 180 mg/L, although I noticed the
planted tank in QT has a level of 230 mg/L. My understanding is that
these levels are pretty high (a good thing?).
<Correct; high hardness and high carbonate hardness are both enjoyed
by Goldfish. Or put another way, Goldfish tend to get sick more often
in acidic tanks and ponds.>
Finally, my tank temperatures fluctuate between 76-80 F, depending on
the weather and between night/day, being toward the cooler end during
the night. We keep our house at a consistent 74 F, so I'm not sure
why the tanks are always warmer. Like I said, I only recently started
turning the lights on. The room the tanks are in does have a window,
but the sun never shines directly on the tanks due to a large shade
tree in front of the window.
<Is a little on the warm side for Goldfish. I wonder, do they ever
show signs of being oxygen stressed? For example, do they gasp at the
water, or do their gills move unusually rapidly? Chronic lack of oxygen
could reduce their immune system, leading to all kinds of issues. The
optimal conditions for Goldfish are around 18-20 C (64-68 F).>
Also, I have only two tanks, a 10gal with a single 2-inch Comet and a
27gal with a single 5-inch Shubunkin. The smaller tank has a 90gph
filter and the larger has a 150gph filter. Back in February, I tried to
add a 300gph filter to the 27 tank instead of the 150, but within an
hour, the Shubunkin had a split tail, so I think the current knocked
him around. This happened again in March when I tried to add a 200gph
in-tank UV filter and within 15 minutes, he had another split, so I
replaced it with a much slower (72gph) in-tank UV filter. As far as
sharp decorations, the sharpest thing in the tank is plastic plants. I
removed one of them, but the others seem pretty harmless and
they've been in the tank for a year with no previous problems.
<With high-turnover filters, adding a spray bar will dramatically
reduce turbulence, and even more so if you direct the outflow against
the glass or down towards the gravel. The benefits of additional
circulation cannot be overstated.>
Let me know if there's anything I've left out. In the meantime,
I'll just keep doing the water changes and hopefully that will
P.S. I chose Anubias as the plant for my goldfish tanks. Seems pretty
hardy and well-adjusted to my tank conditions. Once I'm sure there
are no snails on them, I'm going to add them to the tanks.
<A good choice; a very hardy plant.>
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Goldfish-Resistant Fin Rot? (It's been a long time since I
wrote to you...) 4/21/09
One last quick question! (Thanks for your patience with me.) As a
matter of fact, both fish do "eat bubbles" at the surface,
especially the little one.
I've always wondered why, but thought maybe they thought it was
food. If this is related to high temps, any suggestion on how to lower
the tank temperature?
<There are really four things you can do. The first is to add a
chiller, but that's expensive. The second is to make sure the tank
isn't in direct sunlight, and ideally in a cool room such as a
basement. The third is to
increase evaporation by placing the tank near an air conditioning vent
or else leaving the tank open and a fan blowing across the surface
during the summer. The fourth is to use blocks of ice to cool the water
down in summer (1-litre ice cream tubs are great for making
long-lasting "icebergs"). Oh, and if you have a heater in the
system, turn it down! Also check you have adequate ventilation in the
hood so that heat from any lights can escape.>
I guess I could add colder water (little by little of course), but
won't it just warm up over time?
Honestly, my house isn't that hot, although I do live in sunny
Florida. But I would think the outside ponds are much warmer than my
<Indeed. But every situation is different, and when you have a
persistent but inexplicable problem, you should consider every possible
cause, even if they seem unlikely ones. (A bit like an episode of
I have an air stone in both tanks, in addition to the water agitation
provided by the filter. There always seems to be lots of tiny little
air bubbles all over decorations and plants, although there is
surface agitation in the little one's tank.
<If the air bubbles are "stuck" to things, and especially
if they are most numerous in the morning when the tank warms up, then
you're looking at oxygen coming out of solution. When water warms
up, the solubility of oxygen drops. (You probably know this already;
for some reason I recall you're a chemist or something.) Anyway, in
a healthy aquarium with good water circulation, there shouldn't be
bubbles anywhere except those produced by airstones, spray bars, and
from the leaves of plants when they photosynthesize (under very bright
light!) and all of these bubbles are mobile, travelling
New Print and
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What it takes to keep goldfish healthy long-term
by Robert (Bob) Fenner